Four days into the World Cup and it looks like all the predictions that it would be a shambles have proved to be false. From the comfort of my armchair, the tournament looks fabulous; it’s a riot of colour, the goals are flowing (an average of 3.36 goals a game, up to and including the Argentina v Bosnia-Hertzegovina match, compared with an average of 2.27 goals a game in South Africa in 2010), and the images of Brazil look splendid. I feel sorry for the team from Croatia, though. In the opening match against the host team, which they eventually lost 3-1, I felt they were hard done by the referee, and now they are up in arms because spying photographers took photos of their players swimming in the nude at what looks like a very lush, tropical resort.
Of course, while there is no denying the natural beauty of Brazil, what you see on your television screens tends to be the sanitised version. Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro may look spectacular, for example, but it is heavily polluted with the run-off from the inadequate housing and sanitation facilities in Rio’s favelas.
The social problems and inequalities in Brazil are well known, having been drawn to our attention, both by protesters and the media, and quite rightly so, for these are issues that have to be tackled, not just in Brazil, but everywhere. In Australia, for example, which is supposed to be a “wealthy”, mainly middle-class country, there was a report out today by The Guardian Australia website that the nation’s nine richest people (yes, nine individuals) have more money than the bottom 20 per cent of the population, or 4.54 million people. And the richest 1 per cent of Australians have the same wealth as the bottom 60 per cent. On a global scale, the same article says that the richest 85 people in the world are as wealthy as half the world’s population, 3.5 billion. As one Australian newspaper put it – accidentally – in a recent front-page headline, The world is fukt.
From this blog’s point of view, hopefully the World Cup in Brazil will stimulate interest in that country and in the Portuguese language, just as it did for me when I first visited that country more than a decade ago, and let’s hope that some of the tourist money flowing into that country at the moment goes into the pockets of the people who need it most.
If you have never been to Brazil and are contemplating a visit, you might like to read my guide on the best that the country has to offer, which was published recently on the website of Australia’s best-selling magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly.